Jeremy Lee
Jeremy Lee
A view from Jeremy Lee

Jeremy Lee: Telegraph leads the charge to integrate with digital content

I'm a Daily Telegraph reader. There, I've said it. It may not be quite as shocking as admitting to having a penchant for watching OMG! With Peaches Geldof on ITV2 but, in some ways, there is something about being "a Daily Telegraph reader" that people think is character-defining.

While it won't prompt a sharp intake of breath, as self-confessed Daily Mail readers may find, in the media world where a deep-seated and lifelong commitment to The Guardian is taken as an article of faith (and pretence that the whole Nick Clegg support "thing" never happened is taken as given), it's still seen as pretty startling and rather old-fashioned.

After all, the Telegraph is that fusty old broadsheet, dyed-in-the-wool Tory paper producing formulaic old guff for a dying generation of Colonel Blimps from the Home Counties (full disclosure: I am from the Home Counties), right? Well, maybe not. According to its results published last week, Telegraph Media Group turned a loss of nearly £16 million in 2008 into an underlying profit of more than £60 million last year. Like-for-like profits on last year were also up more than 50 per cent.

You might think that this just reflects a return in confidence in the ad market - and to an extent this is true - but what makes it more remarkable is the way that the newspaper successfully seems to have invested in becoming a multimedia operation relatively early, and wholeheartedly. Given that its readership was, anecdotally at least, barely capable of raising a soup spoon of Brown Windsor to its lips without spilling it, you'd assume that it was not one capable of understanding, let alone using, the internet, so new readers must be coming from somewhere.

This integration into a single multimedia newsroom started in 2006 and continues, enabling costs to be cut out of the business while ensuring that its print and online operations are run in parallel and complementary. Visitors to its Victoria news operation cannot fail to be impressed by it.

But it seems that media buyers are still struggling with this concept from a title that still has connotations of a plodding obsession with the status quo (or worse, the past), which is why it was interesting to hear that TMG has launched a mission to try to get agencies to reappraise it and its readers.

Of course, sales initiatives are nothing new but this one seems to have genuine commitment and, as well as benefiting the title, should have a wider halo effect on other newspaper groups faced with trying to work through the print/digital conundrum.

It's something that market leaders should do - it's no longer appropriate for them to simply be happy with the knowledge that they carry a big negotiation stick. Especially when people are under the misconception it's just a walking stick.